A death foretold: On activist Stan Swamy's death

There is a pattern of institutional oppression behind the demise of Father Stan Swamy

It was fairly obvious that his prison stay, especially during the pandemic, was detrimental to his well-being. A good two months elapsed between the High Court seeking the NIA’s response to his bail plea on medical grounds and his death. The same court had intervened to grant interim bail to Varavara Rao, another elderly co-accused, holding that bail can be granted “purely on the grounds of sickness, advanced age, infirmity and health conditions”, especially if incarceration amounted to endangering life. It is systemic and institutional failure that another undertrial placed in similar circumstances did not get the benefit of this humane approach. A pattern of institutional oppression can be seen in the events, from the denial of a sipper in jail to his death while in custody. Two larger issues here are the questionable legality of the bail-denying feature of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the validity of the Bhima-Koregaon case itself. It is time the higher judiciary examined these; especially the attempt to link a simple case arising out of violence a day after the Elgar Parishad, a commemorative event held in Pune, and an alleged Maoist plot involving lawyers, activists and human rights defenders. To make matters worse, credible reports that some of the electronic evidence gathered in this case could have been planted remotely by malware were never investigated. The call for accountability for Fr. Swamy’s death rings painfully true.

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